varieties of actually existing socialism

Rosser Jr, John Barkley rosserjb at
Fri Sep 27 10:48:20 MDT 1996

     There is much that Hugh says that is quite reasonable.
I do not disagree with his characterization of
Sweden as capitalist.  It is.  I think that he actually
agrees with me (and Doug H.) that the pressure on Sweden to
move away from what have been genuinely progressive
policies in many areas has come from the broader collapse
of world socialism, however deformed or whatever.
      Let us keep in mind Sweden's genuine accomplishments
which are now being undone.  It had by almost universal
agreement achieved the highest quality of life for women of
any society in world history and until recently had also
achieved the lowest rate of poverty ever seen in world
history.  All this is now going into the dustbin.
Curiously, some of its fellow Scandinavian social
democracies seem to be resisting better, e.g. Norway and
Denmark, and I expect to see them soon, if not already,
looking better on many of these stats than Sweden.
     There was a move to have the LO assume ownership of
the capital stock gradually in Sweden.  But, this was
blocked some time ago.  Now we see blatant reaction.
     BTW, I have no line on all this.  Various people on
this list have wanted to know what my line is.  I don't
have a definite one.  In my youth I was very right wing and
came out of a very conservative background.  I went very
left and Marxist and then drifted back toward
left-liberalism (ah ha! says Uncle Lou).  But, in reaction
to what has been going on in recent years, I have been
drifting back left again.  But I am really wondering what
form it should be.  That is partly why I have played a
gadfly role on this list (although I tend to do so on any
list I am on, as many can attest).  Even if I am really
ultimately somewhere between Swedish social democracy and
Slovenian worker-managed market socialism (with some
indicative planning thrown in for good measure) in terms
of what I really support, which may be the case, I agree
that to even have those kinds of systems be sustainable,
somehow there has to be something further "to the left" out
there that is functional.  As far as I am concerned, that
includes democracy or any such movement is going to end up
like the Soviet bloc did.  Maybe, as Lou has suggested, the
German PDS or the Brazilian Workers' Party, or even the
PCP, will get us somewhere.  I don't know.  I'm trying to
figure it out.
Barkley Rosser
On Fri, 27 Sep 1996 10:07:21 +0100 Hugh Rodwell
<m-14970 at> wrote:

> Barkley gives an account of some "actually existing socialisms". I don't
> think any of the alternatives represent "actually existing socialism". Very
> summarily I think all four represent various stages of decomposition of
> workers' states due to political and economic mismanagement by Stalinist
> regimes. That's something to return to later.
> However, at the end of his posting, he writes:
> >to maintain both the Slovenias as well as even the more capitalist but
> >still socially progressive social democracies such as Sweden.
> 1) It's nonsense to call Sweden "the *more* capitalist". It's capitalist
> through and through. There's not one iota of socialism in the Swedish
> system. Owing to the Social-Democratic class collaboration regime, the
> bourgeois Swedish state developed a temporary veneer of social welfare
> policies in response to pressure from an extremely highly organized and
> hugely powerful working class. The problem has been that the organization
> and power have been in the hands of class traitors from the start. The
> extent of the welfare system reflects the extent of potential class power
> and real class pressure.
> However,
> 2) The international crisis of late imperialist capitalism has for almost
> two decades now been forcing the Social-Democratic regime to apply
> austerity policies based on more and more vicious cuts in the standard of
> living of wage-slaves and their dependents in Sweden. These cuts have been
> negotiated and administered with energy and enthusiasm by Social-Democratic
> governments and the Swedish Trade Union Congress LO. The time is
> approaching when the collaboration of the class traitors will have done its
> work and outlived its usefulness, and their presence in the regime and its
> traditional Social-Democrat character will no longer be necessary.
> 3) By the dynamics of this process it is completely false to call such a
> setup "still socially progressive". Some traces of the old capitalist
> welfare state are still left -- it takes time to wipe out everything, and
> the Social-Democratic politicians and LO bureaucrats haven't got the guts
> to throw half the population on to the streets without food -- yet. They
> prefer salami tactics, death by a thousand slices. But the whole trend is
> *socially regressive*, and has been for over a decade. There is no hope at
> all for any other country in the Swedish model. The Swedish regime was the
> first to declare the model dead, and now other countries, particularly
> regimes such as Havel's in the Czech Republic are having to swallow the
> fact that their panacea is no more.
> 4) Sweden may still appear to have advantages over other countries. This is
> a good indication of how harshly the imperialist crisis is hitting all
> countries internationally. Unfortunately, it's an efficiently centralized
> country, and the speed at which it's dismantling these advantages is
> breathtaking. This process has been accelerated by Sweden's entry into the
> EU. For instance, less than a decade ago Sweden was still at the top of the
> league when it came to standards of living in Europe, and now it's sunk
> towards the middle. I'll provide some statistics on this some time soon, if
> no one else beats me to it.
> So, all in all, it's time to forget Sweden as a model of "socially
> progressive" policies or a successful implementation of a capitalist
> welfare state.
> See it rather as a model of how even the most advanced bourgeois
> democracies are totally unable to provide for the basic needs of the
> population on a permanent and stable basis. All provisions benefiting the
> proletariat have been temporary and conditional on the approval of the
> bourgeoisie. In the breathing space granted imperialism after WWII by the
> treachery and counter-revolutionary policies of the international Stalinist
> leadership of the working class, Swedish capitalism gave its assent to
> fairly far-reaching welfare state concessions and even to a
> Social-Democratic regime. When the internal contradictions of imperialism
> had accumulated to a point where the postwar "truce" between labour and
> capital in the imperialist metropolises was no longer acceptable, the
> Swedish bourgeoisie starting calling in the concessions. And the more it
> claws back, the more it wants and the faster it wants it.
> Cheers,
> Hugh
>      --- from list marxism at ---

Rosser Jr, John Barkley
rosserjb at

     --- from list marxism at ---

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